UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Krista Cotten

UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Krista Cotten

Krista Cotten

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Name: Krista Cotten
From: Amarillo, Texas
Degrees and institute: B.S., Animal Science, University of Kentucky (UK)

Krista Cotten, a master’s student in Plant and Soil Sciences at UK, came to the Lexington area with the Kentucky Equine Management Internship program.

“I fell in love with the area and transferred to UK (from West Texas A&M University) to finish my undergrad degree,” Cotten said. “I ended up in Plant and Soil Sciences (PSS) because of a great opportunity that a friend knew about working with Dr. Ray Smith and the UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program. So I guess PSS found me.”

Cotten’s research project focuses on the effect of tall fescue sample handling and storage on ergovaline concentrations in fresh material. Ergovaline (toxin produced by the fungus that infects some tall fescue) adversely affects many livestock species, including horses.

However, knowing how much ergovaline is present in a pasture at any given point is tricky, because ergovaline appears to be unstable in the fresh plant, Cotten said.

“The goal of my research is to determine the best method of sample handling and ideal storage conditions of samples until the lab can process them,” she said.

Cotten also works with the UK Horse Pasture Evaluation Program, which helps local horse farms of all sizes improve pastures by providing detailed recommendations based on observations made in each field. The program also samples tall fescue on some farms to determine the risk present to late-term mares. Last year, the program worked with 18 farms for a total of more than 3,800 acres and expects to cover even more ground this year.

“My hope is that my research provides guidelines for more standardized tall fescue sample handling and storage so that results from both research and diagnostic cases can be compared from across the country,” Cotten said.

Cotten plans to graduate in December 2013.

Shaila Sigsgaard is an editorial assistant for the Bluegrass Equine Digest.

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